Every­thing in bal­ance: Nutri­tion for the men­strual cycle

by Sophia
Ernährung im Zyklus, zyklisch essen, Ernährung und Menstruationszyklus, Essen im Zyklus, Seed Cycling, Richtig essen für einen harmonischen Zyklus, Zyklus durch Ernährung unterstützen, Menstruationsbeschwerden natürlich lindern, diet for your cycle, eating with your cycle, gesunde Ernährung, Vulvani

The right food for a har­mo­nious men­strual cycle

Cramps, bad mood, water reten­tion. Almost every men­stru­at­ing per­son has expe­ri­enced at least one of the count­less PMS and men­strual symp­toms. There are many tips to help get through this time. One of them: Eat­ing. Eat cycli­cally, to be exact. If ques­tion marks are appear­ing on your face now, hang in there! Because the right nutri­tion for the men­strual cycle can do a lot more than just relieve discomfort.

How can we actively sup­port the men­strual cycle?

Every­thing we eat some­how has an influ­ence on our body. For this rea­son, you can basi­cally lis­ten to what your body tells you. If you know your­self well and pay atten­tion to your­self, you will quickly find out which food is good and tol­er­a­ble. And also which you should rather avoid. Nev­er­the­less, there are some tips on what to watch out for in which cycle phase.

Nutri­tion for the men­strual cycle: Perse­phone, pome­gran­ates and Japan­ese women

The god­dess of love and lust, Perse­phone, is often depicted with a pome­gran­ate in her hand. It is a sign of her fer­til­ity and fem­i­nin­ity. Pome­gran­ates con­tain plant estro­gens, also called phy­toe­stro­gens. These can acti­vate estro­gen recep­tors in the body, but also block them. Men­strual and PMS symp­toms often occur when the men­stru­at­ing per­son has an estro­gen sur­plus. In this case, phy­toe­stro­gens have a block­ing effect. Estro­gen defi­cien­cies, on the other hand, are found in con­nec­tion with menopause, where phy­toe­stro­gens then have an acti­vat­ing effect to com­pen­sate for the imbalance.

Like pome­gran­ates, soy also con­tains phy­toe­stro­gens. Peo­ple in Asian coun­tries such as Japan eat a lot of soy. There­fore, women who fol­low a tra­di­tional asian diet hardly ever suf­fer from menopausal symp­toms and PMS as known in Europe. There­fore, a reg­u­lar intake of phy­toe­stro­gen-con­tain­ing foods can relieve symp­toms. Per­son­ally, I don’t like soy too much, so I’m very happy that lentils, peas, beans, pota­toes, plums, and (pome­gran­ate) apples, among oth­ers, also have phy­toe­stro­genic effects. Espe­cially if you eat the peel too, because the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of the valu­able sub­stance can be found directly under the peel.

Fol­lic­u­lar phase

Our body needs energy to rebuild the uter­ine lin­ing after men­stru­a­tion. Many men­stru­a­tors also feel more cheer­ful, upbeat and full of energy dur­ing this time. You can now sup­port your body with pro­tein-rich foods, such as kid­ney beans, lentils or soy prod­ucts. Pro­bi­otic foods such as sauer­kraut, pick­les, yogurt and bean sprouts also help dur­ing this phase.

Ovu­la­tion

Shortly before and dur­ing ovu­la­tion it can be help­ful to eat raw veg­eta­bles, dark berries, broc­coli, aspara­gus, corn, and red lentils as these foods con­tain fiber, antiox­i­dants and cal­cium, that sup­port the body dur­ing ovulation.

Luteal phase

The luteal phase can be called the inner autumn. Our body shuts down and often­times you may feel the need to retreat. The well-being can now be increased with vit­a­min B by eat­ing chick­peas, bananas, pep­pers, kale and avo­cado. Also, as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure, one should already make sure to con­sume enough mag­ne­sium and iron so the body has no defi­cien­cies dur­ing men­stru­a­tion. Foods rich in iron are beet, fen­nel, arugula, wal­nuts and choco­late (the ones with a high cocoa content!).

Men­stru­a­tion

In addi­tion to iron, you can make sure you get enough unsat­u­rated fats dur­ing your period. These can be found in salmon, avo­cado and olives for examleVit­a­min A from spinach, car­rots, kale, sweet pota­toes and pump­kin also con­tribute to a hor­monal balance.

Avoid meat and dairy prod­ucts as nutri­tion for the men­strual cycle

I was a veg­e­tar­ian myself for quite a while and was happy that, unlike many peo­ple I know, I didn’t have cramps dur­ing my men­stru­a­tion. When I started eat­ing meat reg­u­larly again I had cramps for the first (and unfor­tu­nately not the last) time. I didn’t see the con­nec­tion until I cut back on my meat con­sump­tion for two months. With a hot water bot­tle and laven­der oil I was pre­pared for the abdom­i­nal pain but it didn’t come.

Meat and dairy prod­ucts espe­cially beef and pork, sausage, offal and whole milk con­tain a lot of arachi­donic acid. This pro­motes inflam­ma­tion and cramps and there­fore causes more severe cramps and pain before and dur­ing men­stru­a­tion. We also absorb the stress hor­mone cor­ti­sol via meat, which is secreted by ani­mals before slaugh­ter and of which men­stru­at­ing women already have an increased dose in their bod­ies before their period any­way. To sum up, giv­ing up meat or eat­ing less meat for one to two weeks before men­stru­a­tion can help against the pain.

Reduce sugar and salt consumption

Sugar and also cow’s milk increase the pro­duc­tion of insulin. Insulin ensures the pro­duc­tion of testos­terone, which is partly respon­si­ble for acne and pim­ples. Addi­tion­ally salt should only be con­sumed in mod­er­a­tion before the period as it pro­motes water reten­tion in the body, which can occur espe­cially dur­ing this time.

Cyclic seeds and kernels

Dur­ing the two meat-reduced months, I also tested some­thing else: “seed cycling.” The prin­ci­ple of seed cycling is to sup­port the hor­mones and their bal­ance men­tioned at the  begin­ning with seeds. In the fol­lic­u­lar phase, these are flaxseeds and pump­kin seeds, which con­tain many omega-3 fatty acids that stim­u­late FSH. Sesame seeds and sun­flower seeds can sup­port you dur­ing the luteal phase. They con­tain omega-6 fatty acids and thus sup­port the pro­duc­tion of prog­es­terone and pre­vent estro­gen dom­i­nance. In addi­tion, all of these seeds also con­tain the phy­toe­stro­gens men­tioned above. So I snacked on pump­kin seeds, made my muesli Insta­gram-ready with flaxseeds, and ate rolls with sun­flower seeds. 

How impor­tant is nutri­tion for the men­strual cycle?

In the end, I can’t really say whether all of this had an influ­ence on my cycle as big as it promises. Because although I felt com­fort­able in my skin, every cycle is indi­vid­ual and influ­enced by very dif­fer­ent things like stress, exer­cise and the psy­che. We need more stud­ies on the cycle and men­stru­a­tion! But what I can say is: it helps to observe your­self dur­ing your cycle and to find out more about your body. It is a kind of self­care to sup­port your body with cer­tain food in dif­fer­ent phases.

If you want to learn more about the topic and are look­ing for recipes, I rec­om­mend the book “Eat like a woman” by Andrea Haslmayr and others.

Are you ready to finally under­stand your body & your mood swings bet­ter and learn cycle aware­ness? Then our online course “Cycle Aware­ness as a Super­power” is per­fect for you!

Zyklusbewusstein, Zyklusachtsamkeit, Online-Kurs, Onlinekurs, im Einklang leben, Stephanie Schäper, Koasdesign Studio, Stimmungsschwankungen verstehen, Kraft des Zyklus, Zykluswissen, Menstruationszyklus, Selbstfürsorge Menstruation, Innere Jahreszeiten, Zyklusphasen, Vulvani, Vulvani Academy
Published at 4. February 2021
Sophia lives near Lake Constance in Germany, where she studies literature, art and media. She soaks up information about the menstrual cycle like a (menstrual) sponge and tries hard to keep her tips listed here in mind herself, even if she sometimes can't resist a frozen pizza.

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